This is my first time approaching Santiago de Compostela from the south. On the Camino Frances, the entry to the city is less charming and seems to be walking through an endless suburbia of busy roads. On this route, topping the brow of a hill on small roads, there it is in all its ancient glory.
According to my poorly translated guidebook, the final 20 kilometres is described as difficult. I’m not so sure I agree for the reasons given. However, my journey was difficult for other reasons – some of my own making.
I have alluded several times to being hypnotized by the route. I should be focussed on looking for yellow painted arrows or scallop shells indicating that I am on the right path. I continue on in a dream like state.
After three or four kilometres, I realize that I may be on the wrong route. I refer to my cell phone on which I have downloaded a ‘useful’ maps program that doesn’t require WiFi to operate.. It’s simple, follow the little black line of the Via de la Plata. Now I see that I am miles from my route, so I coordinate a route in order to reconnect with where I should be.
There are obviously some deficiencies in the system because I find myself in dense forest, moving branches aside, cutting across land that has not been traveled for several years. I sing as I walk – I tend to sing to myself anyway. There’s a more special reason for doing this now because there are wild boars that roam my route and there is one reported story of a surprised boar who attacked someone and severed their femoral artery. So far in my journey, I have survived wolves and wild dogs but don’t wish to succumb to injury on my last day of walking.
I find myself wading through streams and eventually hear the sound of traffic. Not quite so easy because I have to slide down a fifteen-foot bank with backpack. I stress that this is not the usual route of the Camino but is obviously my route for some unknown reason.
Not of my making is the forecast of rain this day. As I have written in my book “My Camino Walk – A Way to Healing,” the feeling of water is not necessarily pain or pleasure – it is a sensation and one can make of this what one may – it can be an emotional downer or one can consider it bracing. Today, on and off, it is to be a day of considerably large rainstorms.
I am equipped for rain – I think. On this Camino, this is the second only day of rain. I have a rain poncho that covers both me and my backpack. That’s the theory. Either I am deficient in practical skills or, to cover both me and the rucksack, I need the assistance of another person to put this on.
I am, of course, in the middle of nowhere and it begins to bucket with rain. I crouch down in a squat in an attempt to make myself smaller so that this bit of clumsy plastic will help protect both me and the backpack from the deluge. This proves to be a completely futile exercise. I might as well have laid down in one of the streams through which I had waded this day. I start to laugh because I seem to be in a place of my choice that is absurdly ridiculous.
I eventually reach a cafe where the owner insisted that I remove all my clothes so that they might dry them in a slow oven. Under such circumstances, sitting around in a spare pair of shorts, I truly enjoy their warming recipe of meat-laden lentil soup.
The Camino continues and casts further its magic. More reflections to come.